Route details for Hat Tha Nam (Ko Chang) to Battambang
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For some reason I’d got it in my head that our time in Cambodia would not have been complete if we did not make a trip to Battambang. There was a small paragraph in the lonely planet saying that it was possible to travel from Ko Chang to Battambang but when I asked the British owner of the lodge we were staying at we were told “it can’t be done”! The info in the lonely planet was vague but it gave us an outline of what route to take which sounded as if it would take about 12 hours. The hostel continually tried to talk us into taking an alternative (and more expensive) route via Sihanoukville into Cambodia but this would have meant that we would not have been able to go to Battambang, not without a 2 day detour anyway.
On a Thursday morning we got up at 5.30am and headed for the main street of Hat Tha Nam (white sands beach). Once on the main street we waved down a taxi (small pick-up truck) to take us to the first ferry of the day (7am). It always seems that when we start this type of journey we meet someone on a more interesting trip. This time it was a couple who wanted to head to one of the smaller islands South of Ko Chang “paradise” I was told! I can’t remember which island it was but they did tell me that it would take them most of the day and involve two ferries and a few hours on a longboat. I was tempted to change our plans but we did not have the time for a detour and continued with our plan to get to Battambang.
Anyway, the ferry from Ko Chang took us back to the mainland within an hour. From the harbour we wanted to get to Trat, we thought there was a bus we could get but there were only taxis at the harbour with the drivers telling us “no bus to Trat”! Yer right! With no other option we hopped in the taxi which drove less than a mile and stopped at the local village! At this point we had a bit of luck as a government bus pulled up for Bangkok, we jumped off the pick-up and the driver of the government bus assured us that he would stop in Trat. In fact the bus also went to Chanthaburi which suited us even better. I think the bus took about an hour and a half to get us to Chanthaburi where we got off the at a busy bus station. Now we needed to get a bus to the Ban Pakard / Psar Pruhm border crossing, again we told “no bus no bus”! All the taxi drivers were trying to charge us $20 for a taxi to the border crossing. After about half an hour I found a taxi driver to take us to a private minibus in the town centre which took us to the border for a couple of dollars each. The minibus took about an hour and a half to get to the border picking up and dropping off people along the way.
At the border we were the only westerners so the Thai officials looked a little surprised and escorted us to the only booth with a computer! For some reason when we got through the Thai side of the border the minibuses on the other side did not want to take us across no man’s land. Confused we walked the 300m or so in 40ºC heat to the Cambodian checkpoint! We had been warned about the extortion techniques at Cambodian borders but at this one they seemed to be lacking practice and soon processed our paperwork. Later I found out that you can pay for the visa online in advance which may save hassle from more aggressive officials.
At the Cambodian border there were a couple of moto’s and a taxi (disguised as a wreck of a hatchback with a broken windscreen), the driver was willing to take us into Battambang. Prices were high and haggling hard. In the end we settled for $10 for the taxi but I think the taxi driver got a good deal. I can’t complain too much as we did get the back seats to ourselves even when he picked up three people on the way! The taxi took about two hours down a road with potholes the size of a car. The contrast from Thailand was vast, the minefield warnings, mud huts and broken bridges held many a story I’m sure. One thing that did not make much sense to me was why our driver had to pay a toll to cross watercourses when the bridge had collapsed!
We arrived in Battambang about 8 hours after leaving Ko Chang, which is about as good as you can hope for. If I was doing it again I’d still plan for it to take a good 12 hours!